Thursday, January 12, 2012

Contests - Good, Bad or Ugly?

Now that the Preditor & Editor Poll has concluded, we can all take a deep breath and enjoy not being hounded every five minutes by someone asking you to "vote for my book."  Years ago, as a new author, I was excited when someone nominated my debut novel.  To see my first work listed among a myriad of other books made me feel accomplished...more so than just being published, until I found out that people were self-nominating.  You didn't have to rate any type of recognition for having written a profound novel or compelling read, and votes could be commanded, begged, and even stolen if you count that some people thought it was all right to vote under more than one email account.   If I recall correctly, I didn't finish very high in the rankings, but then as a new author, I didn't know many people so I couldn't compete in the popularity contest that P&E became.  I voted only in categories I felt qualified for my vote...author's page, publisher, editor, cover artist.  I didn't feel it was fair to vote for a book I hadn't even read.

The pattern has continued each year, and I've watched as the number of entrants dwindle.  There used to be four times the amount of authors entered and even more emails flying around, soliciting votes. I was one who sent them...even nominated myself one year.  I didn't win, but would I have been proud of being honored if I had?  The top ten winners in each category proudly displayed their badges on their websites, noting an honorable accomplihsment.  Was it?  Or had they just let the world know that they spent countless hours hawking votes and were awarded for having the most convincing plea or the largest amount of friends?  Is that what most contests have become...trailer awards, cover awards, best book review.  How often do you see emails where people are asking for your support?  Do you give it?

Even peer reviews have come under scrutiny.  The "liking" and "tagging" pleas for books on Amazon, along with reviews written by friends of the authors, have caused those who are purely readers to question how valid a review given by another author can be.  I've written a few reviews on Amazon for books I've read, but I admit to tagging and liking some I haven't.  Is that honest?

This year, being part of a new publisher with tons of fledgling authors, the loop was flooded with excitement and endless scrolls of "vote for me in the P&E poll," "no, vote for so and so," even, "I'll back out if you vote for this person so he can win."  I tried to express my opinion and ended up being flogged on the readers loop for dimming down what should be a joyous moment.  As I watched from the sidelines with a bitter taste in my mouth, I realized, winning or losing didn't really matter to most, it was about camaraderie, family, and support.  If you believe in your publisher, you must believe they contract only the best work, so why wouldn't you support your peers.  I didn't advertise that I voted, but I did.  I supported my publishing families...two of them, and although it was difficult in some categories where several author sisters and brothers competed, I actually read samples on Amazon before I voted for work I hadn't read. 

I suppose whether or not you vote in any of the ongoing contests is a personal choice.  I've voted for friends who have asked me, and I've probably asked for a few votes here and there myself, but really, do I want my videos to be judged by the number of friends I have or by the work that went into the product?  Do I want to be deemed the most worthy of an award because I spent more time sending out emails?  I don't think so.  My trophy cabinet may remain bare, but I'll still have my foolish pride, won't I?  Winning a contest is sort of like winning the race...you have to break the ribbon first.  No steroids allowed, and the judges watch you like crazy.  I like the surprise nominations...ones you know nothing about and can do nothing to manipulate.  Those are the ones I want to win.  Dreaming, aren't I?

I'm interested to see how others feel.  Has being in the industry for a few years changed how you view contests or am I the only skeptic?

14 comments:

widdershins said...

There seems to be a plethora of 'blog awards' floating around at the moment as well. The kind where you reveal several heretofore unknown facts about your Self and then nominate a fixed number of other blogs that are among your favourites. They're fun and nice to recieve, but like you I wonder if they're nothing more than acknowledging the shape of our frogs (friends on blogs) community.

As for those 'support me' pleas - If I read in that genre, if I've read the book/ respect the author, I'll certainly consider voting, but I also read the competition, and vote accordingly.

I'm not into the numbers game for its own sake ... glad you're not either.

Widder

Maggie Lyons said...

Ginger, I'm a new author with MuseItUp and have never experienced a P&E poll, or any other book/author poll before this last one. I've nothing against the enormous energy spent on calling for votes because we are all in the business of promotion. But I would not consider voting for a book I hadn't read and I wondered if some people had done that.
---Maggie

The Romanceaholic said...

lol This is why I never win the DABWAHA brackets -- I only pick and vote for books I've actually read and enjoyed, instead of the "if _____ book gets to the next bracket, I'll post a free novella", which is what a lot of the authors do.

I still enjoy those types of contests, though, if for nothing else than I as a reader get introduced to several books and authors I've never heard of before.

(and for the record, I don't "like" anything on Amazon that I haven't actually read and rated 3* or higher)

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Enjoyed your post, Ginger. My MIU book isn't out until March, but I definitely wouldn't have been canvassing votes even if it had been (if someone else ever nominates one of my books, I'd merely mention that fact) - I'm a slightly reserved Scot!

You make a really good point about people nominating themselves (which I don't think should count in any comp) and I wouldn't usually vote for a book I hadn't read.

Maryann Miller said...

This is a really tough question. So many of us are friends and it is hard to not support a friend, but I honestly cannot promote a book that I do not like. When asked for likes and tags, I will tag, as that helps with SEO, but I cannot click the like button on a book in a genre I do not read and don't care for.

I also do not ask for votes for myself. So many of the contests online and the blog awards and such really don't carry the same weight as a contest that one has to be nominated for.

Marva Dasef said...

It's all about promotion. P/E is getting smaller since many authors from the big publishers won't deign to be seen with the hoi polloi.

Since I have few friends, if I win a place, I hope that it's because those who know my work vote for me. And I see no problem with asking people for a vote. They can choose to vote or not and I'm none the wiser. They might not be aware of the contest unless told.

Finally, might I ask, if it's all a popularity contest and isn't worth anything, then why are all those candidates for political office running around doing exactly the same thing?

Ginger Simpson said...

As I stated, when I was a new author, I believed in hawking votes for a way to increase my visibility, and maybe it was and still remains a viable promotional tool, but my perspective is that I take no joy in winning something where "I" nominated myself or could manipulate the outcome. It's a personal preference, and to those who feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, I say,"go for it." Since this is my blog, the opinions reflected here are at my discretion and not an attempt to sway anyone one way or another. As for the political candidates? I get as tired of seeing their ads as I do the countless emails where someone is pleading for a vote. But, that's just me. Sadly, there's no one running I would endorse, but that too is a personal preference, and the great thing about America...we can still express our opinions, cast our votes, and be heard. Of course, the outcome isn't always going to please everyone.

Rhonda M. Hall said...

I entered a contest & did pretty well with voting, until the Omaha Westroads had a mad gunman on the loose. Living in Omaha, I felt guilty for hawking votes, when so many others were suffering. Later, criticism sparked that the contest was rigged anyway. Supposedly, before the contest began, they already had their winner. The whole thing soured me on those kinds of contests. I have my heart set on entering another contest soon, I was extremely dishearted to see the final portion of it, involves a popularity voting portion. Ugh.

Lyn Horner said...

Ginger, I'm still pretty new to the game and am not familiar with the P&E poll. However, IMHO no one should be allowed to nominate themselves for any writing contest. That seems obvious.

As for asking for votes, I can't plead innocence there. Having recently been nominated for the PRG Reviewers Choice Award, I admit to shouting it all over my sites, on Amazon and to family and friends. I was so excited by the nomination, and still am, that I simply couldn't resist telling everyone. I do feel a little bit like a carnival barker. :(

sashagirl said...

You've learned a lesson I've just learned...I've come to believe that none of that matters. Liked, self nominating, etc. All the stuff you spoke about. I've been in ebooks for 5 years now and on the whole internet experience...and evetually, as a writer, you learn what's important. Writing. Writing better books and stories. Helping other authors. Contests rarely mean anything. I'm still learning. Kathryn Meyer griffith

Ginger Simpson said...

Lyn,
We've probably all shouted from the rooftops when we find we're among nominees for an award. That's quite a bit different than nominating yourself and then acting totally surprised, which I admit to doing nine years ago when I first found P&E. I think the decision comes to you after you've been doing this for a while...that it's hard to be proud of something you initiated then manipulated. Announcing where people can vote for you is one thing, but making them feel obligated is another. I still announce sites where I'm appearing, featured or interviewed. That's promotion, and promotion is supposed to open you up to new readers and followers, not just continue to draw on the same base of friends to support you in your quest to win. All MY opinions.

Okay...I've droned on long enough about P&E. I think we all know how I feel, but I'm still taking some pride in the fact that two of my titles finished in their category top ten, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it except announcing the presence of one on the publishing loop to help garner a finish for the team. If people decided to vote for me after one announccement, I hope it was because they read the book and voted because I was worthy. I'll never know, will I? *lol*

J Q Rose said...

Oh my goodness. I have felt guilty all week for feelings you expressed here, Ginger. I even asked a fellow author how she feels about a contest where the winner is not judged on the quality of the story, but on how many votes garnered due to her popularity or all out promotion. She agreed with me the award should be given on merit.

Because I wanted to be a team player, I voted in areas I was interested in. Not in any that I knew nothing about.

When I see an author won the P&E award, I will wonder why--good story or good friends?

Thank you for this honest post.

Roseanne Dowell said...

I agree, Ginger. Someone nominated one of my books and it came in 6th on the top 10. I didn't ask for votes. I saw it when I went to vote for someone else very early in the game. I announced it once and that was that.It didn't take long to get lost in the hundreds of vote for me and it's still not too late. I agree about the self nomination. I agree about the begging for votes. Say it once and move on. I was tired of reading all those you still have time or I fell to 2nd. I also don't believe in voting with all those email addresses. Talk about stuffing the ballot box. Yes, it's exciting to win, but not because four or five times a day you begged. I like the d renee bagby presents first chapters. The chapters are listed and people are supposed to read them and vote for the best. That's what I do. But, again, others might be voting because their friends and not taking the time to read. Guess it's like voting for the Homecoming Queen at school - popularity. It'll never change.

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